Women's golf looking to build on spectacular spring campaign

Blue Raiders return six players from Sun Belt Runner-Up squad

September 15, 2010 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - After a spring campaign that saw the Blue Raiders notch their best finish ever in the Sun Belt Championship, the Middle Tennessee women's golf team will look to follow up with a strong fall season.

"Coming off the best season we've ever had as a team, I think that their confidence will be pretty high," said head coach Chris Adams. "We know that we can compete with just about everybody. We improved our scoring average from fall to spring last year by 11 strokes, and that's a testament to how we've been committed to getting better."

The foundation of the team will undoubtedly fall on the trio of Morgan Hale, Karisa Akin and Olivia Love. All three were among the stroke leaders for Middle Tennessee last year with both Hale and Akin earning All-Sun Belt honors at the end of the season.

Hale, who is one of just three Blue Raiders ever to earn a Sun Belt Golfer of Month honor, is returning after a career 2009-10 campaign. The senior from Tullahoma, Tenn., led the team in stroke average at 76.69, highlighted by finishing third in the 169-player Kiawah Island Women's Intercollegiate.

Akin, who finished fourth at the Sun Belt Championship to earn a spot on the All-Sun Belt team, was tied for second on the team with Love in stroke average at 77. Akin is also coming off a very successful summer as an individual, which included winning the 2010 Kentucky Amateur in June.

Love, a freshman last season, played with uncommon poise for a first year player. The Columbia, Tenn., native had the majority of her rounds count towards the team's overall score, and individually posted three top ten finishes.

"Morgan, Karisa and Olivia all had a really good season for us last spring, and they should be the go-to players for us this fall," said Adams. "I plan on them contributing in every tournament."

Ashley Haggard showed flashes of her potential last season, especially at the UALR Women's Classic. Then a freshman, Haggard shot an opening round 68, ultimately finishing in third in the 88-player field.

"Ashley has the belief that no one can beat her out on the golf course," said Adams. "When you have a player with that amount of confidence, it's a good thing. You know, in our sport, almost everything is mental."

Despite not playing in the majority of tournaments, Adams also expects a lot out of both Stephanie Smith and Steph Gough.

"They didn't play in a whole lot of tournaments last season, but I think each had a pretty good summer. Smith probably had one of the better summers of all the players, and she played in a lot of tournaments. Gough didn't play in a whole lot of events, but she worked very hard, and I think she knows she should qualify for more tournaments this year."

After a relatively large influx of players last season, the Middle Tennessee will welcome just one new player to the team this year, Natalie Chrisopulos from Rowlett, Texas.

"It might be a little harder for her to get acclimated as the only freshman," said Adams. "She had a very good high school career and played for a very strong team in Texas, a state that has a solid reputation for high school golf. She really wants to be a part of our top five, and there's no question she'll make a lot of tournaments. She hits the ball very well, but it could take a little while to adjust completely to the college game."

With improvement in mind, Adams has put together one of the more challenging schedules in recent memory for the Blue Raiders, which includes a number of teams ranked among the top 50 in the country.

"Every tournament we're going to this fall is new for us, and most feature some really good teams," said Adams. "In order for us to meet some of our goals, which include improving our ranking and ultimately having the opportunity to make it to an NCAA Regional, we need to play in more difficult tournaments. That's the only way to do it. Also, as a young group, I think going into these tournaments full throttle will only help make us better."

The Blue Raiders will open the fall campaign this weekend at the Great Smokies Women's Intercollegiate, hosted by Western Carolina University. Daily recaps and score updates will be available at GoBlueRaiders.com.

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